Aurai Helps Automate Dutch Customs and Border Protection

Today, companies can no longer evade the increasing automation trend. The automation revolution has not just touched commercial companies, but government agencies like the Dutch Customs and Border Protections (CBP) who must now also keep up with in data technology advancements. In cooperation with Taxsample and TB Customs Consultancy, Aurai has developed a data tool to meet a range of CBP challenges – from growing commodities trade, increasingly complicated importation and exportation processes, new import duties, to trade-restricting measures related to Brexit.

Improving Importing and Exporting

Importing and exporting goods is chock-full of red tape and rules. Any incorrect declaration from a company leads to additional payments, higher taxes, fines and even criminal prosecution. To carry out correct CBP remittances – in line with existing trade policy measures and within a reasonable period – a correct, timely and complete declaration is essential towards keeping trade economically and legally viable. Together with Taxsample, Aurai has designed a tool to help validate the accuracy of returns and offered advice on possible improvements to the tax return process.

Developing Customer-Oriented Solutions

For some time now, Aurai has been working with Taxsample to discover customer-specific solutions. Our products and solutions are always defined and optimized by close communication with customers, users and stakeholders. We applied this same process when developing our tool for the Dutch Customs and Border Protection. Companies report their import and export of goods to customs monthly. It is essential that these reports are error-free in order to prevent the undesirable consequences mentioned above. Not surprisingly, all parties benefit from being able to check the reports’ accuracy, and then quickly and efficiently correct any inaccuracies.

Confronted with such a complicated problem, TB Customs Consultancy and Taxsample reached out to Aurai for a solution. The, seemingly unlikely, pragmatic ideal turned out to be a triangular collaboration: TB Customs Consultancy’s specific domain knowledge combined with Taxsample’s expertise in Tax Data Science and Aurai’s experience in designing data-driven solutions. Our working method for this process was based on Design Thinking, a fast and efficient system that achieves the desired result through short cycles, clearly stated expectations, frequent consultations and interim result discussions.

Step-By-Step to the Core 

The first step to the best user-oriented solution is to put yourself in the user’s shoes. Within Design Thinking this step is simple called ‘empathize’. We mapped out current problems and areas for improvement over various sessions. The key problem? How the processes’ and systems’ complexity resulted in major challenges for users – in this case companies – in correctly indicating their import and export declarations. The companies’ biggest wish? Offering a validation check before the declarations are submitted to customs.

After interpreting the wishes and requirements of users, we proceeded to unravel the core of the problem. This second step in our process is called ‘define’. Our first roadblock was twofold; there was no possibility for a validation check and companies were still ignoring or making insufficient data surveys towards implementing certain improvements. Lacking this data, we missed an opportunity to establish an important guide for improving import processes and, for example, saving on import duties. In short, it was about time to make some changes.

Testing Solutions and Prototypes

During step three, ‘ideate’, we focused on new solutions. For this, Aurai organized a joint consultation to investigate potential solutions. Our clearly defined objectives led us to focus primarily on realizing the duties’ validation check.

In the next step, ‘prototype’, we started developing the end product. In this Design Thinking phase, new ideas are tested and examined to determine whether they solve the issues and meet the customers’ needs. We developed a working prototype in short cycles to demonstrate the feasibility and present an early version to the customers. We expanded and improved the prototype after each consecutive iteration, until we felt it was ready for tests. To achieve the best possible final product, communication with all parties involved is always very important. Clear feedback is crucial towards perfecting the prototype so that it meets expectations and needs.

Diving Deeper

To make the validation check possible, Aurai wrote multiple multifunctional scripts aimed at following and automatically generating (scraping) online data. Based on the review Customs and Border Protection conducts, we developed a method that alerts users, within every declaration line, to the rules that have not been met. Improvements can thus be made to help prevent infractions.

While developing the validation check, we also considered advice options regarding the various transactions and their costs. Our tool was designed to notify a user when a percentage deviates within a specific transaction. In addition, the tool analyses, for example, other countries of origin that might offer a more favorable rate for certain goods. With all these data-driven results, Custom and Border Protection experts can advise and steer their company towards an appropriate strategy.

Delivering Customized Tools

Thanks to our step-by-step approach, our journey from ’empathize’ to ‘prototype’, we could develop a tool in little time to automatically import data and perform critical checks. With the end result, users have more control over their declarations, and tailored data and advice to help them along the way. Thanks to close cooperation, we developed a working prototype that could be tested and perfected by incorporating the feedback of all relevant parties. Aurai is proud to have combined forces with Taxsample and the TB Customs Consultancy in order to create a unique data tool that helps clients, many large entities such as Fokker global aerospace specialists, to not just compete, but soar through the realm of international commerce.

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